Stimulus funds employ 913 youth in Hampton Roads

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, September 3, 2009

As Hampton Roads youth return to school, 913 of them will be able to say they worked hard over the summer, learned a lot and earned a paycheck.

Across the region, the young people, ages 14-24, received work training and employment this summer thanks to Opportunity Inc., Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board and federal stimulus funds.

Recognized by the U.S. Department of labor, the program funneled over $1.5 million into the local economy, according to local officials.

Through a partnership among Opportunity Inc, its constituent localities and existing Youth Program contractor, the Summer Work Experience Program provided eight-week, 35-hours-per-week jobs with local government, non-profit and for-profit businesses. The Opportunity Inc. program was the largest of its kind in Virginia.

Participants worked in areas as diverse as education, information technology, finance, public works, fire, law enforcement, automotive maintenance, libraries, parks and recreation, gardens, community services boards, public housing, planning and real estate.

In Suffolk, 77 young people worked with various city departments, assisting city employees in their day-to-day duties.

In addition to job-specific skills — using a computer, helping an electrician, fixing a car, and the like — participants learned workplace readiness or “soft” skills through regular, formal instruction. These skills included, among other things, how to prepare a resume, job interview techniques and managing a personal budget.

Overall, the program was a huge success, according to Robert Sharak of Opportunity Inc. Young people earned $1.5 million in salary to help stimulate the economy. In the process, they learned valuable work and life skills that they will take with them back to school this fall or, for those already out of school, directly into the workplace, he added.

Further, the OppInc One-Stop Workforce Center is assisting out-of-school youth in finding permanent jobs, thereby providing a seamless transition from the summer program into unsubsidized employment.

Opportunity Inc. is the staff organization for the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, serving eight localities in South and Western Hampton Roads. OppInc One-Stop Workforce Centers, a consortium managed by Opportunity Inc, operates three One Stop Workforce Centers in Norfolk, Franklin and Suffolk.

The organization serves the need of businesses for trained and qualified workers by supporting initiatives that develop the skills of adults and youth to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s economy.